Every year since Modern Warfare (2019), people cry out for the Call of Duty gods to bless them with a return to tradition, a return to the classic CoD prestige system. However, I'm actually a huge fan of the new system, and I think we'd all be worse off if we went back to basics in this. So, in this article, I'll explain exactly why I hope the classic Call of Duty prestige system never comes back to the game.
The Old System Would Be Annoying
Look, we live in a world where people will, literally, buy a Call of Duty game and play it for hours just to level up their guns for Warzone. The cross-progression nature of modern Call of Duty has made it such that you now spend less time than ever before playing with unleveled guns.
This is very much so a good thing that everybody wants. See, ten or fifteen years ago, Call of Duty was a lot less sweaty. From SBMM to players getting better to a million other things, older CoD games were a lot more about screwing around and having fun. Today, they're often sweatfests.
That's not, necessarily, a bad thing. People like competition, and in a lot of ways, older CoD games were just fundamentally so unbalanced that it made them hard to turn into what felt like a fair fight. Regardless of why the games are more competitive now, they definitely are.
And you're at a huge disadvantage if you're playing without all your attachments. In fact, you're at a pretty big disadvantage if you simply don't have the right attachments put on your gun. It's infinitely frustrating to start playing a CoD game today at Level 1 while everyone else is zooming around with their full loadouts. You just can't outdamage somebody who has an attachment that makes them do more damage than you.
The old prestige system saw you reset everything and put yourself back to Level 1 (at a new prestige) every time you prestiged, so you'd have to go back through unlocking everything again. And honestly? I just don't see players doing this anymore. In an age where huge swaths of the playerbase will just play with whatever's meta to get that little edge in a gunfight, why would people start willingly choosing to make themselves weaker in gunfights?
I know I don't want to do that. If I wanted to sacrifice kills or wins or doing well in a match in general for some kind of progression, I'll grind for camos like the rest of the playerbase.
And the New System Is Actually Great
In the new leveling system, once you unlock something, it's unlocked. Guns have levels that are tied to attachments, while your account also has a level. This is your season level, and it resets with the beginning of each new season.
If you want to play the heck out of the game and hit the max level (1000), you'll have to do it in a single season, which makes it a lot more impressive than max prestige in older Call of Duty games where you just had to play a lot of the game over the course of your lifetime.
Plus, in Black Ops Cold War, depending on how high a level you hit during a particular season, stars would get added to your profile, showing off to players if you consistently reached a high level during multiple seasons over the course of the game. This is somewhat similar to Modern Warfare (2019)'s Ribbons system, giving you a way to show off playtime outside of season level.
The way the prestige system works now rewards you for lots of playtime and grinding in ways you can show off, but it doesn't force you to re-unlock anything.
The Old Prestige System Won't Increase Loadout Variety
Many argue that if you encourage players to reset their account via prestiging that we'll then see a lot more people trying out new loadouts throughout the lifecycle of the game, but it's hard for me to see that happening.
As discussed above, leveling your account or a gun already puts you at a disadvantage in a gunfight, so people generally try to do this as fast as possible, while even during camo grinds, camos that require you to not use any attachments, for example, are generally quite unpopular for this same reason: the game's forcing you to play ineffectively.
However, a cool mastery camo is a significant reason to be at that disadvantage, oftentimes, while making the number next to your name go up isn't particularly worthwhile, especially when most people just assume you've hacked or cheated to reach max prestige or max level anyways.
Hacked lobbies have been so commonplace in Call of Duty for so long that 13 years ago in Modern Warfare 2 even it was a ubiquitous and commonplace thing to find out that many of the people at max prestige had glitched it that way rather than play their way through. This holds true for modern Call of Duty these kinds of lobbies and glitches are still alive and well.
In general, it seems much more likely if we returned to the old prestige system that we'd just see people not prestige, unless there was some kind of really amazing reward that strongly incentivized players to do that, but the traditional emblems and calling cards aren't usually impressive enough to warrant this.